9 March 2011

Movie Review: The Adjustment Bureau


The Adjustment Bureau
2011, 106mins, 12
Director: George Nolfi
Writer (s): George Nolfi, Philip K. Dick (short story)
Cast includes: Matt Damon, Emily Blunt, Anthony Mackie, Terence Stamp, John Slattery
UK Release Date: 4th March 2011

The literary works of Philip K. Dick have allowed for some of cinema’s grandest triumphs, efforts like “Blade Runner” and “Minority Report” now considered indisputable sci-fi classics. Dick was a genius, combining thrilling storytelling with a deeper meaning beautifully, a skill that filmmakers have cherished for decades. “The Adjustment Bureau” is another victory for the now deceased author’s cinematic cannon, albeit a far more intimate and romantic interpretation of Dick’s writing than filmgoers are used to.

David Norris (Matt Damon) is an aspiring politician with a reckless streak, a facet in his personality that has slowed his journey up the country’s bureaucratic ranks. Following a particularly painful election defeat, David meets Elise (Emily Blunt), the two enjoying a tender moment before she is seemingly escorted out of his life for good. However a later chance encounter between the two further stimulates their connection, the first signs of love starting to flourish. However Elise and David’s newfound joy isn’t to the benefit of everyone, not least a group of smartly dressed shady types who call themselves The Adjustment Bureau. Ruled by The Chairman, the bureau sketch out every individual’s life plan, and ensure it is rigorously complied with. David and Elise aren’t meant to be together, and so the bureau intervenes, capturing David to explain their reasoning. However David isn’t convinced, fighting his supposed fate at every juncture, desperate to be with the woman he adores.

“The Adjustment Bureau” marks the directorial debut of George Nolfi, the screenwriter behind 2004’s excruciating “Ocean’s 12” and 2007’s impressive “The Bourne Ultimatum”. Nolfi proves terrifically adept from the vantage point of his director’s chair, combining a tremendously attractive visual aesthetic with a buoyant central storyline. “The Adjustment Bureau” isn’t the overblown chase feature promised in its trailers (that’s just the climactic 15 minutes), but rather a well rounded and superbly touching tale of love overcoming adversary. Of course coming from the mind of Phillip K. Dick it all comes wrapped in a dark science fiction sheen, but that can’t disguise the fact “The Adjustment Bureau” is first and foremost an epic romance.

Damon and Blunt convince as kindred spirits, both actors bringing sexually charged charm as well as a committed intensity. Damon anchors the picture effectively as a man frantically searching for happiness, finding it in the form of Blunt’s hugely engaging Elise. Nolfi ensures that viewers come to fully empathize with the central pair’s conundrum, bringing up questions about the importance of free will and destiny in the process. “The Adjustment Bureau” also boasts a fine supporting cast, including a sinister Terence Stamp and conflicted Anthony Mackie, but it’s really dependant on its two leads, Damon and Blunt never disappointing during their lively turns.

Due to the well realized emotional content “The Adjustment Bureau” is fairly gripping for the majority of its runtime, which feels stretched at 106 minutes. By its finale the production starts to feel a little repetitive, even though the berserk conclusion does exude an adrenaline pumping aroma. The organic relationship between Damon and Blunt is the movie’s greatest asset, although its allusions to religion and the importance of personal choice make for a close second. “The Adjustment Bureau” definitely isn’t short on ideas, Nolfi pumping refreshing dosages of heart and intelligence into the project.

It’s unlikely “The Adjustment Bureau” will ever be considered as potent a diversion as some of the more celebrated Dick adaptations, but it’s a well told and professionally executed affair none the less. The movie operates slickly as a mysterious thriller, but leaves a much stronger mark during the affectionately depicted moments of enchantment between Blunt and Damon. It’s a consistently engrossing watch.

A Review by Daniel Kelly, 2011


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